Not Getting Along? Why We Can’t Have an Orchestra or an Amusement Park


When I was blaming the State Fair Board and Harold Workman for the demise of Kentucky Kingdom last week, I didn’t have all the ammunition that Ed Hart provided in a scathing letter to the local newspaper. Else I’d have been more critical.

Orchestra CEO Rob Birman

According to Hart’s piece, the Fair Board ended negotiations with his group, assuring Kentuckians that the $18.7 million in economic benefits the park would bring in annually would not be realized. And that says nothing of the ancillary benefits, such as all the other local attractions that use the amusement park to help lure groups to town.

But most disappointing is the failure of area politicians to act on a deal that Hart said would assure them that their investment of public money would be paid back before anyone else got paid. And then there’s the state legislature and its anti-Louisville bias. Hart points out the head-scratching facts about what state politicians do consider a worthy investment:

Meanwhile, the state has approved $43 million in tourism tax incentives and promised an additional $11 million in highway improvements for a private development like the Ark Encounter, which is not yet funded, let alone built, and has a construction price tag of approximately $170 million. Yet Kentucky Kingdom, already built and a state-owned asset that would cost as much as $200 million to reproduce from scratch, sits unused.

While it’s easy, and correct, to bleme Workman and the Fair Board for the failure, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Stop the Music: Another failure to negotiate seems destined to doom the Louisville Orchestra. It’s no secret that the Orchestra is NOT a viable business. It depends on the support of generous donors, and the Orchestra management is saying precisely what its limits are for financing the enterprise. And the players have rejected the latest offer, which amounts to a difference over paying 10 musicians. (WFPL Interview)

Despite forking out $20,000 for a mediator, the two sides seem content to stop the music.

CEO Robert Birman spoke at the most recent Breakfast of Champions event, touting a three-tiered plan that didn’t even factor into the negotiations with the union. Birman also talked of a vision of a symphony center that would make the orchestra a big part of the local music community. I described it as a “bold and ambitious plan.”

It seems that there’s no saving the Orchestra this time.